Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pro Sports

April 11, 2013

Woods favored, but challengers aplenty at Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Eighty-three-year-old Arnold Palmer punched the air on an overcast morning.

The Masters was under way.

Three of golf's greatest players — Palmer, 77-year-old Gary Player and 73-year-old Jack Nicklaus — struck ceremonial tee shots to begin the first major of the year Thursday.

Palmer was clearly pleased with his effort, which settled right in the middle of the fairway. He pumped his right fist as the crowd roared.

"The only nerves are to make sure you make contact," Nicklaus quipped. "It doesn't make a diddly-darn where it goes."

Sandy Lyle, John Peterson and amateur Nathan Smith followed the former champions to the tee, beginning their rounds under gray skies after three warm, sunny days of practice. There was a chance of rain in the afternoon.

Lyle and Smith both left No. 1 with bogeys. The very early leader was Sweden's Carl Pettersson, with birdies on his first two holes.

Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods came into the week as the overwhelming favorite. He already has three wins this year and reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

"I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game," Woods said. "I feel that I've improved and I've gotten more consistent, and I think the wins show that."

But Woods hasn't won a major since 2008, and he has gone eight long years since his last win at Augusta. He was scheduled to tee off at 10:45 a.m. with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy.

"Obviously, Tiger is Tiger," Piercy said. "He's always going to be that target. He knows it, and that's how he wants it. But there's a lot of people getting closer. And the golfing gods, or whatever you want to call them, have a lot to do with winning. A bounce here, a bounce there. A lip in, a lip out."

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